The term “adverbs” encompasses a lot in English.
You can break this large category of speech into four smaller groups to make learning easier for your students. Here are the four types of adverbs your students should know and exercises you can use to practice them.
Check If You Deal with All Four Types of Adverbs in Your Classroom
Adverbs of Manner
Adverbs of manner communicate how something happened. They are generally used to modify verbs. In the sentence, they appear after the verb or after the object. They should not be placed between the verb and its object.
- The boy laughed loudly.
- Elena did a pirouette gracefully.
- Not: Elena did gracefully a pirouette.
An adverb of manner can be placed at the beginning of a sentence or before a verb + object to make the statement stronger.
- Gracefully, Elena did a pirouette.
- Elena gracefully did a pirouette.
Adverbs of manner are used with active verbs, those that show action. They are not used with stative verbs, verbs that show a state of being.
- Not: Elena seemed gracefully. (Seem is a stative verb and does not show action. It does not, therefore, take an adverb of manner.)
To determine if an adverb is one of manner, ask a “how” question.
- How did the boy laugh?
- How did Elena do a pirouette?
To teach adverbs of manner, try one of the following activities.
Adjectives and Adverbs
Have your students work in pairs to brainstorm a list of ten simple nouns and the actions they could perform (rabbit/run, student/study, dog/fetch…). Once pairs have their lists, have them exchange the lists with another pair. Students now take the nouns and verbs on the new list and use them to write a sentence that also contains an adverb of manner. (A rabbit runs quickly. The student studies hard. The dog fetched the stick clumsily.)
No they don’t.
In this pair activity, one student makes an untrue statement using an adverb of manner. (E.g. Professional dancers move clumsily.) The second student responds by saying, “No they don’t,” and then makes a correct statement. (Professional dancers move gracefully.) Students then switch roles. As students make their statements, move throughout the room and offer corrections as needed.
Adverbs of Degree
Adverbs of degree tell us the degree or intensity to which something happened. They can modify verbs, adjectives or other adverbs. Adverbs of degree are generally placed before the main verb or the adjective or adverb they modify.
- She was entirely wrong in her judgment.
- He drove very quickly.
- Clarisse thoroughly believes he is innocent.
- She is too stubborn to change her mind.
To determine if an adverb is one of degree, ask a “to what degree” or “how much” question.
- To what degree was she wrong in her judgment?
- To what degree did he drive?
- How much does Clarisse believe he is innocent?
One exception to adverb placement is “enough” which appears after an adjective or adverb it modifies.
- Are you warm enough?
- Am I working quickly enough?
To teach adverbs of manner, try the following activity.
How sure are you?
How sure are your students about their classmates’ statements? In this exercise, one person will make a statement that may or may not be true and a second student will say how sure they are about that statement. In their response, they should use one of the following adverbs of manner (listed from most sure to least sure). Extremely, especially, particularly, pretty, rather, quite, fairly, not especially, not particularly.
Adverbs of Place
Adverbs of place tell us where something happened. They are generally used to modify verbs and appear after the main verb or after the object in a sentence.
- I’ll meet you there after class.
- She would go anywhere with him.
- Victor put the book away.
To determine if an adverb is one of place, ask a “where” question.
- Where will I meet you after class?
- Where would she go with him?
- Where did Victor put the book?
To teach adverbs of place try one of the following activities.
Here and There
Here and there are common adverbs of place which are often combined with a preposition to show location. Point out to your students that “here” is used to describe something near the speaker and “there” is used to describe something away from the speaker. Have pairs of students take turns pointing out items in the classroom using a preposition (down, over, under, up, through) plus either here or there.
- E.g. The door is over there.
- My pen in under here.
Adverbs of place ending in –wards express movement in a particular direction (backwards, forwards, downwards, upwards, inwards, outwards, northwards, southwards, homewards, onwards). Have pairs of students work together to write two sentences for each of these adverbs, one showing something that moves that direction and one showing something that does not move that direction. (E.g. Birds do go southwards in winter. They do not go northwards in winter.) Make sure your students do not confuse “towards” with these adverbs. Towards is a preposition and must be followed by a noun phrase. (Birds move towards the equator when it gets cold.)
Adverbs of Time
Adverbs of time tell about when something happened. They can also tell us for how long or how frequently something happened. They are generally used to modify verbs. “When” adverbs usually come at the end of a sentence. Once exception is “still” which appears before the main verb in a sentence.
- Let’s meet then.
- The package arrived yesterday.
- Mike and Dave have swimming lessons weekly.
- They are still learning the basics.
To determine if an adverb is one of time, ask a “when” question or a “how long/how often” question.
- When shall we meet?
- When did the package arrive?
- How often do Mike and Dave have swimming lessons?
Point out to students that that they must be careful when using “yet”. This adverb of time is only used in questions and negative statements.
- Have you finished your homework yet?
- I have not finished it yet.
- Not: I have finished it yet.
To teach adverbs of time, try one of the following activities.
For how long?
“For” is an adverb of time which expresses the duration of an activity. Have pairs of students practice using this expression by asking about activities in the past. The first person asks a question starting with “how long”. The second person answers the question using “for” plus a length of time. (E.g. How long did you live in Germany? I lived there for three years.) If you like, have students ask about actions that began and ended in the past and answer using the simple past, actions that began in the past but are not complete and answer in the past perfect (I have studied English for five years), or actions that started in the past and still continue and answer in the past perfect progressive (I have been taking classes at the university for two semesters).
Repeat the previous activity, but instead of having students ask “how long” they should ask “since when”. Students should then answer using with since + a specific point in time. These questions and answers should not use the simple past tense. (E.g. Since when have you lived in the U.S.? I have lived here since 2012. Not: Since when did you live in Germany?)
Teaching adverbs doesn’t have to be overwhelming for you or your students. Breaking them into these subcategories makes learning this part of speech more manageable and less intimidating.